This week, we were super excited to interview the actor who plays our all-time favourite TV character, Jac Naylor from Holby. Rosie Marcel joins us to chat about family life, her two-year-old daughter, health and fertility, life on set at Holby, and those gruesome scenes around the operating table. Find out just how much medical knowledge she’s picked up over the years!

You have played consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Jac Naylor on Holby City for the past 11 years. Describe a day-in-the-life on the set of Holby. 

Pretty much the same as it is every other day on Holby. Up early, breakfast, then we’re all in make up together which is really fun as we often don’t get to see each other filming on different wards. Make up and lunchtime is a time for us all to catch up and see how we all are and things like that. We have to be on set for 8am, so we travel up to set at about five to, we do a nice little line run, and then a rehearsal, and then start shooting for the rest of the day, basically. It’s a lot of fun!

Jac Naylor is a driven, feisty character known for being as hard as nails. Is she a fun character to play, and do you think the softer side that we catch glimpses of from time to time will ever prevail? 

She is an amazingly fun character to play. I don’t think I would have been there eleven years if I weren’t still really enjoying being her. I think the fun part of her mostly is that Jac says all things we wish we could say, with her there’s no internal dialogue whatsoever, and she’ll say whatever comes into her mind. I think that’s why people love her so much, she just doesn’t suffer fools at all, but she is also a kind and caring, but you don’t often don’t get to see that. You’ll probably have noticed that it’s mainly the audience who sees her soft side, not many of the characters in the show are aware of it and we’ve made that something that’s consistent within the show, that the audience feel that they are only party to the nice parts of her.

Her soft side is so occasional, will it ever prevail? I don’t think so, I think she will always be the person she is, and I think that’s basically it for her. I think that’s because Jac’s had such a bad life and she’s suffered so much it just works for her to be the way that she is. She has the odd soft moment with various men in her life but I think we’ve seen the last of that. Losing her sister is going to be emotional, it’s something my character has tucked away for now but it will come back to haunt her later in the year.

Are you anything like your character Jac, as we’ve been very nervous putting these questions together! 🙂 

(Laughs!) No, I’m not, I’m not like her – I’m very strong willed don’t get me wrong and I’m a confident person and I again, myself, I do not suffer fools. Becoming a mum, you realise you’d kill. You’d kill anybody that did anything to your child, basically. So I’m very, very protective of her, I’m very protective of my private life and my husband, and I think we’ll all go a little bit mental if anybody threatened that. I can be very strong when I need to be strong. I can happily shout at builders making too much noise – that kind of thing, but generally I’m too much of a caring person, I’m constantly taking in strays, I’m constantly picking up animals that have been hit in the road – that’s more me in the sense that I’m just a bit more of a soft touch than anything else.

Are the scenes shot in theatre as gruesome to film as they look to watch, and how much medical knowledge have you picked up over the years? 

They’re not so gruesome for us because all you can smell is plastic, although don’t get me wrong, our prosthetics department do an amazing job. I’m constantly in awe of the work that they do, as it just always looks unbelievably realistic and it has to be perfect, it has to all be in place, so everything you’re looking is what it would look like inside a human body. When we’re operating on those bodies we have to be in the right place when we’re talking about something specific, which leads onto knowing a little bit about what I’m doing. I know what I’m looking at when I’m looking inside a body; I know where are the valves are, I know where the aorta is, I know how to stitch, I know what Prolenes to use and what sutures to use and things like that, so I’ve picked up quite a lot, and certainly enough to do some damage, but probably not any good!

5) You’re a brown belt in Karate. Are martial arts how you like to keep fit? And tell us a bit about your other hobbies.

I’m actually a black belt in Karate, but I gave it up a very long time ago as I had my nose broken. Keeping fit, I’m married to a man who owns two gyms, so you’d think I’d go to the gym all the time, but it’s very difficult when you have a kid. Because my hours are extremely long I don’t get to see much of her, so when I do have a day off, the last thing I want to do is go to the gym, but I do try and go to the gym at least three times a week. I have to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to work out, it’s really difficult to try and stay fit with a kid. I still have my mum tum, two and a half years later. My daughter likes to call it the ‘sausage shelf’. It’s really hard. I’m always amazed at how people seem to ping back into shape, it must be genes, because for me it’s a constant struggle to try and stay fit and loose the extra weight that I’ve gained.

6) You’ve had a lot of struggles health wise in the past, if you don’t mind, tell us a bit about them and how you managed to get through the dark times.   

I mean, my health problems are an ongoing thing; it’s stuff that I won’t be cured of. It’s not easy, I won’t lie, it does affect you, It’s sink or swim really, I’m one of those people, you just have to try and find a way through, and it is very difficult, and I did actually have a nervous breakdown last year on set. I was diagnosed with depression, severe anxiety, stress and depersonalisation, and I think I thought I was dealing with all my medical problems and having a baby very, very well, until that happened. You suddenly realise you are fallible, and you can be weak, and it is OK to be weak and cry and be upset. You just have to make sure you’re giving yourself all the attention you need.

As mums we get a very, very thin slice left to ourselves, and I really fully believe it’s so important to get time to yourself and not give 100% to everybody else because you’ll end up getting depressed like I did last year, and having to be signed off work for a significant amount of time. Everybody deals with things differently, but it’s just – understand yourself. Recognise what you need, recognise when you need a break, and try and work through it that way.

7) You found out you were pregnant after a rough time of trying to conceive and just two days before you were due to start IVF.  What advice would you give our readers going through fertility issues? 

Keep trying, I mean, just keep trying. You hear these amazing stories of women that take 10 years to conceive and then finally get their miracle baby. You’ve just got to go down every route, make sure you are looking after yourself, but also have fun. Don’t get stressed. I’m convinced after we lost our first baby the reason we couldn’t get pregnant again was because it was all we thought about. Every time I got my period it was just so depressing and so upsetting. I do believe it was only when we relaxed and decided to have IVF we fell pregnant. You’ve got to have fun, don’t stop drinking, have a glass of wine, enjoy yourself, try not to think too much about it, stay healthy, stay fit as well, but have a big glass of red, some naughty cheese and a fatty steak – life is for living and if you’re lucky enough to get pregnant – amazing. Just don’t stop trying. Go down every route, I’d say.

8) Where are your favourite destinations for a bit of a) fun, b) food and c) culture with the family? 

We have a favourite holiday destination, a place called La Residencia in Deyà, Spain, which is an amazing holiday place we try and go to once every few years. It’s one of those places you have to save up to go to, but it’s worth it, it’s lovely, there’s donkeys and things that live on the villa, you can walk with the donkeys, go for food… It’s one of our favourite places to go.

We did the whole Peppa Pig World last week, it was absolutely brilliant, and my daughter had the most amazing time. I think for me, in particular, my hours are ridiculous, they’re 12/13 hour days so any time with her is good time, and I just make the most of it. I’m on the mummy sphere, I get the weekly and monthly emails – what to do in July, where to go in August, and I follow those, take her along and have fun everywhere we go. 

9) What’s the one baby product you couldn’t have lived without?

Probably the Cocoonababy Nest – it’s amazing. I remember being pregnant and standing in Boots and just looking at all of this stuff and being completely fucking bewildered (excuse my language!), what the hell am I supposed to buy? A woman came over and said ‘You’re a new mum’, I said, ‘I’m gonna be!’ and she told me about the Cocoonababy Nest. It’s amazing, because you’ve got no other way of transporting your baby about in a safe manner where they’re strapped in. You can just rest them down somewhere, it’s brilliant, it stops the moro reflex, and the flat head syndrome – it’s just brilliant. Brilliant product.

10) With such a busy schedule, do you find the time to cook for your family, and do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share with our readers? 

I do find the time to cook; I like to cook healthy food for my daughter when I can and healthy food for myself. I eat five times a day, so I prep quite a lot of meals on the weekend. It’s another way of keeping my weight down, is to continuously feed my body so it doesn’t hold onto fat. We love to cook, my daughter loves to cook – earlier I made Fern Cotton’s salmon fish fingers, I’ve just put those aside in the fridge with all their breadcrumbs and we’ll cook those later.

Favourite foods? Not really, we are very experimental. I love to make a beef moussaka, I love a prawn and fennel linguine, I like to make stuff up, but I also have shed ton of cook books, and I’m loving Fern’s cookbooks at the moment I think they’re brilliant, she’s married to a school friend of ours, so it felt only right to buy her books!

11) How would you sum yourself up in one sentence, and how would you sum Jac up in one sentence in comparison? 

Jac:  driven, competitive, selfish, loving, misunderstood.

Me: giving, loving, caring, selfish and a little bit juvenile and immature!!

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My Baba

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